OTTAWA — The Canadian Forces say five members working in long-term care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic have tested positive for the illness.
Four of them are in Quebec and one is in Ontario.
The military says nearly 1,700 members of the Forces are working in nursing homes where regular staff have been overwhelmed by COVID-19, in some cases becoming sick themselves.
The Canadian Forces are promising reports on the illness in those deployed to nursing homes every two weeks.
Quebec in particular has seen severe COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care facilities, including one in the Montreal area where residents had been nearly abandoned by the staff. Premier Francois Legault asked for the military's help shortly after that case was publicized and Ontario Premier Doug Ford followed suit.
Canadian Forces members are now working in 25 long-term care homes in Quebec and in five in Ontario. Most are in support roles: cleaning, serving food and assisting with residents' basic needs. The military says all have been equipped with personal protective equipment and training in how to use it.
"The risk to our personnel remains high due to the fact that we are often operating in high-risk COVID-19+ threat environments and working in close proximity with persons who have either tested positive or are exhibiting COVID-19 related symptoms," the Forces said in a statement Friday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday that the risk of infection was something the military knew about going in.
"There are always risks in what they do and they go into that knowingly and willingly and that is why we offer them our deepest gratitude every day," he said.
"At the same time, we need to make sure that we are doing everything we can to protect them, so we will look at the protocols in place and see if and how they can be strengthened, as well as ensuring that cases of COVID-19 don't spread through the Canadian Armed Forces and others who are serving their country."
Trudeau said the Forces are considering hazard pay for troops deployed in care homes, akin to what they would get on a dangerous assignment overseas.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 15, 2020.
The Canadian Press